Many of us associate this month with Valentine’s Day, symbolized by heart shapes everywhere you look.
I considered writing about heart health this month--preventing cardiovascular disease by eating heart-healthy foods and getting sufficient exercise. While these are important things, you’ve probably heard them already from every doctor, clickbait article, and cereal box out there. If you do want to learn more about cardiovascular health, feel free to reach out!
Instead, let’s focus on "heart" health from a social perspective. The relational side of our hearts, rather than the blood-pumping side. Social health!
Everyone has different needs and tolerance levels of social interaction. You certainly know people who are deeply introverted or extremely extroverted. Maybe you yourself have social anxiety or perhaps you thrive as the life of a party.
Regardless of how much or how little social interaction you individually need, you do require at least some for your social well-being. Health in this area—social health—impacts all other areas of health: physical, mental, spiritual…etc.
In THIS STUDY, one of the important conclusions was that “social isolation is a major risk factor for mortality from widely varying causes.” This means that if you are not getting the social interaction you need, you are increasing your risk of death. Not even in any specific way! It isn’t like “smoking increases your risk of lung cancer,”but social isolation can cause any number of problems increasing your risk of dying.
The article mentions specifically that social isolation increases risk of inflammation as much as inactivity does, and isolation increases hypertension even more than typical clinical risk factors such as diabetes.
What?? Wow! Social health majorly impacts our physical health!
Some of the research shows that a lack of social connections increases your odds of death by at least 50%, and up to 91% in complete social isolation. This is huge!
Like all factors in our holistic health, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all requirement for social interaction. You have the freedom to customize the right amount of socializing for you.
My wife thrives in groups of friends. She likes to have “girl’s nights” or themed dinners. She needs the interaction of many others to fill her social cup. On the other hand, my social cup is sometimes filled just by a phone conversation. Sometimes even halfway through the conversation it overflows and I end up cutting the conversation short!
We all have different needs when it comes to the amount or type, but social interaction is essential for this aspect of “heart” health.
In this month of hearts, think about whether you are getting the appropriate quantity and quality of social interaction consistent with what you need. Experiment with getting a little more in little ways like a brief phone call. Or maybe you’re getting too much for you and you can decide to spend an evening at home instead of out.
Over the next week when you see a thousand hearts everywhere you look, try to shift your focus from purely romantic relationships and think about any of your relationships and remember how important these relationships are for social health and, as it turns out, all facets of your holistic health!
Contact Movement Meets Mindfulness Chiropractic for more information!